By Natasha Korecki and Lark Turner
With a pared down legal team and without his codefendant brother, Rod Blagojevich stepped foot into the federal courthouse for the first time since last summer as the start of his corruption retrial began Thursday with jury questioning.
Blagojevich was convicted of just one count in August and now faces retrial on 20 counts, including his alleged attempts to sell President Obama's U.S. Senate seat.
Blagojevich, wearing a dark suit and an enthusiastic smile, looked on as a series of jurors were probed about their exposure to his case and on their thinking of the former Illinois governor.
His smile faded a bit during questioning when U.S. District Judge James Zagel read from the questionnaire of one female juror:
"I thought based on what I heard, he was guilty," she wrote. Asked if she could be fair if she were chosen for jury duty, she said: "I'd like to think I could."
While some jurors said they heard about last summer's trial, many said they did not pay close attention to the media coverage.
Zagel gathered a group of about 40 jurors in his courtroom to give them basic details of the case and of the historical significance of juries; then he began questioning them individually.
The verdict in the case is very important to the parties in it, Zagel said, and so the jurors need to take it seriously.
"You will not be asked whether you like or dislike, approve or disapprove of any person here," Zagel instructed the prospective jurors. "You'll be only asked if you believe the government has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt."
One female juror said she works at a radio station on promotions three days a week and is a substitute teacher for the other two days.
"So you could have a five-year-old one day and a 17-year-old the next?" Zagel says.
"Yes," she responded jokingly, "and they're equally bad."
Patti Blagojevich and her brother, Richie, sat in the front bench of the courtroom, near the former governor.
Blagojevich did not stop to talk to reporters on his way into the courthouse, yelling to reporters: "Can't," he yelled, and pointed up toward Zagel's courtroom said, "Higher power!"